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SAN DIEGO – The federal government on Thursday began collecting facial and eye scans of foreigners entering the U.S. at a busy border crossing with Mexico, a first step in one of its most ambitious efforts to track people who stay in the country illegally after their visas expire.
Up to half of the people in the U.S. illegally are believed to have overstayed their visas, but the absence of a checkout system has left authorities with no way to identify them.
In a push to change that, Customs and Border Protection began scanning foreigners entering on foot at San Diego’s Otay Mesa port of entry. In February, it will start collecting the same information on foreigners walking into Mexico through the checkpoint.
On Thursday, foreigners put their travel documents on a reader at one of the San Diego crossing’s six kiosks and looked into a camera positioned at arms’ length. The process took seconds. Then, they walked a few steps to a border inspector for questioning.
“It’s very fast, not inconvenient in the least,” said Rosendo Hernandez of Tijuana, who was on a trip to buy tools.
Starting in February, U.S. citizens heading to Mexico on foot will use a separate lane at the California crossing with scanners that collect biographic information, including name and birth date, but not biometrics, Misenhelter said. They won’t have to stop if their travel documents are chip-enabled.
Marc Rosenblum, deputy director for US immigration policy said the effort was to fix “the biggest deficiency in the whole system.”
“We have historically controlled our borders coming in but not out,” said Jim Williams, a former Department of Homeland Security official who oversaw efforts to introduce biometric screening at border crossings from 2003 to 2006. “It’s been a lack of infrastructure and lack of investment.”
Between 7,000 and 8,000 pedestrians cross at Otay Mesa daily from Tijuana, and slightly less than half of them are U.S. citizens, Misenhelter said. Several had no objections to being scanned.
The program, which US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) agents are testing for three months at Washington's Dulles International airport, will use facial recognition technology to spot people using travel documents that don't belong to them, CBS News reports.
"This is really just the beginning," Harley Geiger, Senior Counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology told CBS.
"The real concern is not so much this particular pilot program, it is that this particular pilot program is a step towards a larger program," Geiger said. "Not just in ports of entry, but also in public places, mass transit systems throughout the domestic United States."
Marta Alicia Castillo of Ensenada, Mexico, who was headed to a casino, said it was seamless but that Americans should acknowledge that Mexico has the right to demand similar information from visitors if it chooses.
originally posted by: jinni73
a reply to: eisegesis
Rubbish they were collecting retina scans 7 years ago. I was on my way to new Zealand and stopped off at los angeles they forced me to give a retina scan I refused and they said I could go back to Britain if I did not comply I kicked up a big fuss but what can you do they were also in heathrow airport at this time.